Web Standards = Internet Success

Don’t let my New Media Strategist title scare you, I’m certainly passionate about general web strategy, especially adhering to web standards!  I may not be a programmer, but I know that every site needs clean code in order to be effective.  I mean, let’s face it, you might think you have a beautifully designed website, visually appealing, and filled with interactive goodies, but if the front end programming is sloppy, you might as well quit while you’re ahead.

Last night I attended a lecture and networking event sponsored by the Philadelphia Standards Organization.  I heard about it via the PANMA list.  I’m really glad I attended.  Tim Shortt, a Front End Developer at G2 Interactive, lead a presentation he called “Hot or Not”.  Essentially he brought up five very popular, often visited Philadelphia-based websites and rated them on following four factors:

  • Code
  • Searchability
  • Accessibility
  • UX (User Experience).

Without calling out the exact sites we discussed, he found that many of these well-known sites are filled with sloppy or invalid code, contain poorly implemented multi-media, and some are just downright usability nightmares.  The front end programmers, back end developers, and less-technologically savvy individuals in the group (*cough* marketers *cough*) certainly all agreed on these points.  Since we are people “in the know”, it’s certainly easy for us to pick apart these websites and call them out for the things they lack.  Obviously we feel all websites should adhere to certain best practices in design and development – even prominent companies.

However, when you think about it, these notable entities and organizations are well-known for a reason – they are well-branded and likely have a powerful marketing and public relations teams in place.  So while, in many cases, their web presence certainly isn’t “Hot” by web standards, they continue to be recognized and frequently used.  So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that even though we KNOW who these corporations and establishments are – they are providing an often disjointed, unpleasant, and frustrating online experience to the target audience.  So while we continue to go to their websites, we’re not exactly happy with what we see there, can’t find what we’re looking for, and, in some cases, can’t really use what is there at all!   It’s pretty astounding that these companies are allowing such a shoddy and ineffective web presence.  But I digress.

Some “Not Hot” design & programmatic items employed by these sites:

  • Flat-out wrong or extraneous code
  • Wasted or too much white space
  • Glitchy javascript
  • Flyout menus
  • Jump menus
  • Text as image
  • Poor Flash
  • Error messages
  • Disjointed design from page to page
  • Pages that are not printer friendly
  • No alt tags on images
  • Bad or no calls to action
  • Not mobile friendly

The moral of this blog post and the lecture last night: every website should adhere to good web standards.  If a site is poorly design and poorly programmed, the accessiblity, usability, and searchability of the site can be compromised resulting in a poor user experience.  Poor web presence can result in jeopardizing your brand persona, your image, and possibly less sales.